Understanding Subsistence and Culture: The Batek of Malaysia
Subsistence is an important aspect of culture; it defines the way societies lived and allows them to continuously live in terms available resources that the society can procure…
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Observed clearly how the primary mode subsistence of these people made them ably adapt and formulate a culture of their own and survived changes over the years. It has been recognized that mode of subsistence has a major impact on values, beliefs, and virtually all social structures, including the family, religion, the political and economic orders of every culture. Key words: subsistence, society, culture, Batek of Malaysia Understanding Subsistence and Culture: The Batek of Malaysia The world’s modern society is consisting of thousands of human culture that have emerged from the most primitive type to its modern form after polishing over the process of evolution. Same as with man who is believed to have evolved to adapt to the concept of the ever changing environment, culture as the totality of what man does go along with it. These diverse societies at present can be classified into basic types depending upon the primary mode of subsistence strategies that have been used to exploit the natural environment for their existence. Subsistence is a word mainly that has been exploited since the beginning of man’s existence and over the years even until today. It is an important word used to define activities that man has been doing all along for survival mainly described as the main source from which food and other commodities necessary to exist are obtained such as the forests, seas and prairies where most foods are freely taken from. Human societies everywhere have developed a cultural infrastructure that is compatible with the natural resources available to their society and within the limitations of their various habitats. Each mode of subsistence involves resources required to effectively capture and utilize to best suit a society’s needs (Haviland et al., 2010, p. 165) Different societies ever since have used different subsistence strategies depending on the type of environment they have to exploit in order for the society to survive in terms of food, shelter, security and social needs as well. For example, societies living within an area with rich forests live by hunting and gathering while societies living along the coastal regions live mainly on the produce of the sea. Societies that have found more productive strategies have tended to grow larger and more complex and have evolved faster and further. These complex societies often enjoy their success at the expense of societies using more primitive technologies— i.e. hunting gathering societies versus industrialized societies wherein people of the latter enjoys the luxury of abundant food available in the market compared to the food that still has to be gathered raw amongst the forest. It has been recognized that mode of subsistence has a major impact on values, beliefs, and virtually all social structures, including the family, religion, the political and economic orders of every culture. How subsistence directly affects each aspects of a society has long been proven from various researches. In the context of this paper the author would like to present the subsistence and its effect in the culture of the Betak society of Malaysia in terms of their belief and values, social organization and economic organization. The Batek: Hunter- Gatherer indigenous ethnic minority of Malaysia The Batek are one of the twenty indigenous ethnic minorities of Peninsular Malaysia, the Orang Asli inhabiting the watershed of the Lebir River
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(Endicott 1978) The Bateks make up about 0.5 percent of the entire original people community of Malaysia which comes around an estimated 100 thousand people. Irrespective of all the people belonging to a same structure of living, all of these people are divided and subdivided into multiple groups and hence the way of living is extraordinarily unique with respect to each group.
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